Tag Archive: Clock Tower


Hello London!

Our time spent in Paris was amazing, but it was time that we moved on. Our last destination was London and it would be in London that my family and I would celebrate Christmas!

To get to London we road through the Channel Tunnel (aka, the Chunnel), which is an underwater train tunnel that crosses the English Channel from France to England. It was exciting and nerve-racking thinking about crossing through a tunnel that was surrounded by water. However, going through the tunnel itself turned out to be rather uneventful, which is probably a good thing now that I think about it.

Once we arrived at London at London St Pancras we were met by a spattering of british accents. Although it wasn’t like home, I felt relieved that I was finally back in a country where English was the main language. It made me realize just how much I had missed hearing those familiar and recognizable words. From the station we hauled our suitcases out the front doors and decided to drag them down the street for a few blocks to our hotel, which was really close. My family and I made sure to look for cars driving on the opposite side of the street, which even with the LOOK LEFT or LOOK RIGHT signs on the ground, was still hard to remember.

We made it to The Hotel Russell in one piece and were greeted by the warmth of the sun (it would be our only day in London without rain).

The Hotel Russell near Russell Square Station.

Russel Hotel

fronthotel

Just across from our hotel were the famous London telephone booths. Don’t let the bright red exterior fool you though, inside they smell like any other telephone booth (not good) and upon the walls are a number of scantily clad women with a telephone number next to them (you can probably guess on your own what they’re advertising).

telephonebooths

We didn’t have much of the day left to go exploring, so we wandered over to Charles Dickens’ house and took a few photos of the outside, because the museum was closed. We then made our way to an small Italian restaurant. The meal was delicious and the waitress was more than happy to chat with us and give us some information on what there is to do in London.

That night we all rested well for the day to come.

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The following morning we all trooped down to the Underground station for what was going to be a day packed full of sightseeing. There was a long line for the elevator at the station, so my family turned to walk down the steps, but we turned right back around when we saw the sign proclaiming that it was 175 steps to get to the Underground. What we didn’t realize was that the elevators were large enough to fit a small car inside, so we made it to the Underground without any fuss.

One thing I loved about the signs in London… the exit was called the “way out”. I have no idea why someone decided “way out” was better than “exit”.

Way Out

We road the Underground (the trains are surprisingly small, I could have touched the ceiling) to Parliament and came out of the station right under Big Ben. I’ve said it before, but it still amazes me when I go somewhere and see famous sights. There are so many movies, TV series, and books set in London, so many in fact, that I felt like I knew London without even having been there. In reality there’s nothing as inspiring as seeing the sight for yourself.

Big Ben

The Clock of Big Ben

After admiring Big Ben, we headed to Winston Churchill’s WW II bunker. He only spent three nights total in the bunker and the bunker itself was never bombed, however it was the base of operation for Churchill during the war. The bunker consisted of sleeping quarters for his officers, war rooms, meeting rooms, the map room, a kitchen and rooms for communication. Churchill even had his own secret room with a telephone that connected directly to the President of the US (FDR at the time). Today it is a museum, which has kept many of the original rooms intact and has added a room specifically dedicated to Churchill and his life.

Churchill’s room. He loved maps, so the walls are covered in them, he probably thought of strategy in his sleep. Although he didn’t often spend the night in this room, he always took a one-hour nap during the day.

 Churchill's Room

Correspondence room. During the war there were a number of workers here sending and receiving messages. There was always at least one person there.

Secretary Room

The tunnel to the map room. The walls of the tunnel are made of concrete. The map room is filled with maps from ceiling to floor, which are covered in so many pins that they are more hole than map.

The Map Room

Churchill’s bunker was impressive and a great museum, but it was a relief to finally step outside again and breathe fresh air. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to work there for most of the war. The bunker halls and rooms were lit, but the light was dim and orange and the small hallways and constricting rooms couldn’t have been relaxing. Of course most anything was preferable to actually being out on the street while the threat of an attack hung over the city.

After the museum, we crossed the street to St. James’s Park, which surrounds a small lake. The park is filled with birds of all kinds and hundreds of squirrels. All the park creatures were daring and approached people with the hopes of a snack. The squirrels were especially brave and would walk onto the pathway and take food from people’s hands. We fed a few of the squirrels and one started to climb my father’s leg until he got scared and shook it off.

St. Jame's Park

A curious squirrel.

Squirrel

We walked through the park until we came upon Buckingham Palace. For some reason the Queen’s Guard was not wearing their red uniforms. I’m not sure why, so if anyone knows, please feel free to tell me!

Buckingham

A guard with his bearskin cap.

The Queen's Guard

Lock and Key

The Queen Victoria Memorial in front of the palace.

Victoria Memorial

Soon after the palace we took a taxi to 221b Baker Street, which is the famous residence of the London detective Sherlock Holmes. To the left, is the actual apartment, which is set up to look like his house. To the right, is a shop where the souvenirs and tickets are bought. The apartment was fun to wander through. The first and second floor consisted of rooms set up with various knick-nacks and items from Sherlock and John’s life. The third floor had wax figures from all the cases Sherlock had solved. I had quiet a scare on the third floor, where an old man sat against the wall with the wax figures. At first he sat very still and I thought he was apart of the exhibit, but he suddenly began moving I had to do a double take before I realized he was alive!

Sherlock 221B

Our last stop of the day was the London Eye. It was pouring rain, but lucky for us the line was not too long. The Eye was beautiful and glowing blue in the rain. As we walked up to the enclosed carriages they didn’t stop, but moved along the ramp at a slow pace and we had to stumble our way onto them. The carriages held around 20 people.

Big Ben from the Eye.

Big Ben from the Eye

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Day 44: On Top of the World

Our second day in Prague was another day of touring around. Our plan was to ride up to the Prague Castle and then slowly meander our way back down.

Riding to the castle, we were able to catch one of the old street cars. They are probably one of the cooler ways to get around the city, Vienna has some of these too, but the ones in Prague were very different. It seemed to me that these particular trams were made so that no one would have to interact with anyone else. There was only one seat next to each window while the entire middle of the tram was completely open. Everyone in our group found it very amusing and to me it seemed a little unpractical, but the rattling trams really brought life to the city.

Once we reached the top, the view was amazing! Even though it was a little cloudy, we could still see most of Prague and to the left we could see St. Vitus and the Prague Castle.

Before arriving at the Prague Castle, standing to the right of Castle Square, is the Schwarzenberg Palace. The entire building is black and white and the patterns on the wall are all carved. It was really impressive, but also confused my eyes, which wanted to make the triangles and blocks three dimensional when in reality they were flat.

A closer look at the amazing detail.

As we walked up to the castle, honestly I was a little disappointed. It seemed small in comparison to some of the other palaces or castles that I’d seen, but the Prague Castle actually hides it’s size. It might look small from the front, but once we walked through the gates, I realized that inside there is a huge courtyard surrounded by three other sides.

Outside the gates were two guards dressed in blue, they didn’t move an inch while we were there and the poor guards had to endure about a million people taking photos of them. They were there for the protection of the President who uses the castle, or at least a section of it.

This castle like many of the buildings in Europe has gone through a number of restorations. One of the most important or interesting facts about it is that this is the castle where the 30 Year War started, with the Defenestration of Prague or Prager Fensterstruz in German. Defenestration literally means the act of throwing someone out a window. In this case, emissaries of the Habsburgs were thrown out of the windows by Protestants, who did not like the counter-reformation that the Habsburgs were backing. No one who was thrown out the window was killed, but it was one of the sparks that set off the 30 Year War.

Inside the castle there is also a very beautiful hall called Vladislav Hall. It was often used for tournaments with knights and they would actually bring their horses inside the building to compete. This is why the stairs leading into the room are not actually stairs, but more like a ramp.

Unfortunately, there were many places inside we were not allowed to take photos, so if you would like to see more click… here.

Just behind the Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. It is a Neo-Gothic cathedral and one of the more amazing cathedrals I have seen. As soon as we excited the courtyard it was right there, dominating the entire sky. I love Gothic (or in this case Neo-Gothic) churches, because of the attention to detail and intricate handwork. There’s no comparison to the dedication it must have taken to finish such a building and it amazes me even more that this was built 600 years ago!

The side of St. Vitus. This church completely Gothic, the green cap is Baroque.

Inside the cathedral it was packed with tourists, but that didn’t take away from the overall feeling of the church. The ceiling was incredibly high and seemed to go on forever, while the light that filled the church from the windows made the entire place glow.

There are many important Bohemian kings buried inside the church. Below in the royal crypt rests Charles IV and Rudolf II.

One of my favorite parts of the church, and probably one of the things that really sets it apart from other churches I’ve seen, were the stained glass windows. The colors and stories were just breathtaking and they really made the church come to life.

There were a number of different windows all done in different styles, my favorite is the one below. It was created by the Jugendstil artist, Alfons Mucha. In the very center is a depiction of St. Wenceslas and his grandmother St. Ludmila.

Once we reached the very back of the castle, we walked behind the church and found Golden Lane. This is one single, very small, alley. It has cute one-roomed houses along the left side.

Originally, it is thought that this lane was called Goldmaker’s Lane, because it was housing for goldsmiths. However, there is a legend that Emperor Rudolf II housed alchemists here, hence the name, Golden Lane. This legend could possibly be true, because it is said that Rudolf II was more interested in the arts and sciences than anything else.

Just an example of how small the houses were. Even I had to duck to get inside and I’m only five-foot-three!

This is a wreath outside one of the cutest stores on Golden Lane. It was all handmade ceramics with very detailed and original designs. Just a fun fact, Franz Kafka lived on Golden Lane.

After exploring the castle we headed back into town, this time by foot. Although it looks life a very long walk, it actually didn’t take too much time before we arrived at Charles Bridge.

The road leading down into town.

We had the rest of the day off so we decided to go up the Old Town Hall Tower, which has the Astronomical Clock below. From above we could see the entire city.

It was funny seeing how many tourists were looking at the clock. Just the other day we were apart of that crowd, waiting for the clock to ring.

Somewhat of the same shot, but with the rest of the city stretched out on the horizon.

Looking towards St. Vitus and the Prague Castle.

Church of Our Lady before Týn

Old Town Square with a monument to Jan Hus in the middle. He was the leader of the Hussite movement.